Lets not to get confused, JavaScript is not JAVA.

Standard

Most of us, the programmers are less confused about JavaScript brand name, we can figure out quickly that JavaScript is a completely different language than Java, once we start using it.

On the other hand, people who are first introduced to the language; mostly end users or clients are more confused about JavaScript sometimes, the perception or first impression of the language based on its name, is that it is a subset or another flavor of Java. That actually turned out to be a good thing for us and we got lucky to get paid for just explaining the differences and resolve the confusion to clarify to that there is no relationship whatsoever between the two, it is just a weird intruder instance of “Java” word that stuck in a brand name of a totally different language.

So here is part of the historical story on how we ended up with this mess of naming conflicts or intentional mix.

JavaScript is invented by Brendan Eich at Netscape (now Mozilla)The language originally known as Mocha then changed to LiveScript and finally it becomes JavaScript which happened to be the most controversial language name in programming history (though I like the name). Is might be the marketing team who decided to have the Java word in the brand name of JavaScript to push it out the door and takes part of that the glory that surrounded Java language at that time.

Java was getting popular and viral for its portability and flexibility during that time on both the server and client environments. Web browsers supported Java through Applets (local Java run inside a web browser). So JavaScript was meant to be a lightweight complementary language that is easier to learn and pick up by beginners to develop dynamic web content without the need to use Applets or learn Java.

To pour more confusion to the mix, Microsoft has its own implementation of JavaScript called JScript because they did not want to run into trademark dispute problems. So here we go, we have now JScript and JavaScript which represent the same core language but in different dialects.

Netscape worked on standardizing the language specification through Ecma International (an international standards organization for information and communication systems). The standard number for the specification is “ECMA – 262 Specification”. Obviously neither Microsoft nor Sun Microsystems (who own the license for the JavaScript trademark) were willing to give up or donate the trademark so Ecma through its own innovative naming creativity came up with another name!! and they called the language ECMAScript which Eich sarcastically commented about its name saying: so they ended up inventing ECMAScript, which sounds a little like a skin disease”.

ECMAScript is used now more to refer to the standard edition of the JavaScript language, and JavaScript is still the common used name to refer to the dialect implementation of the language. Since then both the standard committee and dialects implementers of the language feed each other and (try to agree) to enhance the standard language and enrich its features which eventually reflected in new editions of the standard and its new dialects implementation version, with that cycle the language continued its evolution since then.

below diagram is some sort of an object oriented diagram (hope the abstraction makes sense) of how Ecma organization, the standard, ECMAScript and various dialects are related.

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JavaScript is a standalone language and has nothing to do with Java language except that it uses some of the design concepts and programming style, in reality JavaScript major influence came from Scheme, Self and C programming languages.

Also Java compiles eventually to a native code (sort of) that can be executed by its own JVM and runtime while JavaScript needs a host environment in order to run and execute (like a web browser or Node.js process in case of Node network applications) and it depends on its host for IO operations.

I always try to embrace and talk about the powerful features of the language like dynamic typing, closure, Lambda, and its prototype-based aspects which are design concepts and features brought from other languages like Scheme, Self, C and Java too which collectively may exceed the capability of those individual languages in certain scenarios.

I also try to expose how the language got standardized, matured and grown in recent years. By doing that I hope I can change the inherited dominant wrong perception of the language which is: JavaScript is a scripting language at the end so its not as fast and powerful as other native languages. Sometimes bad names or nicknames have really terrible consequences on things!!.

That being said, JavaScript has some inheritance of bad features and practices that sometimes make it harder for developers to maintain and spot silent errors at compile time and can only be discovered at runtime during program execution; but those errors can be minimized and totally eliminated by following best practices and design patterns that protect the application or program from language design and implementation flaws.

Also there are some code analysis tools like JSLint that helps writing standard code that follow best practices and help eliminating using a language feature or construct that might cause problems at runtime.

I intentionally did not put any timeline or associated dates to when those different evolutionary steps happened to the language because there are many resources online and references that talk in depth of the history of the language. I listed below the resources that I used for this post in case your inner history nerd wants to dig into further details.

Happy Coding!